KARACHI: Women and children followed the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s caravan on Sunday as the two-storey bus he was on made its way, from the congested two-lane road near Kakri Ground, towards the main Lea Market square.
However, despite the PPP having chosen a Sunday for the rally, many people suffered immensely.
It was around 5pm when the bus finally stopped at the square and a huge crowd of supporters and curious onlookers gathered around to hear Bilawal speak.
While party anthems blared in full volume, followed by slogans and speeches made by PPP ministers, a group of women gathered near the bus said they came to see Bilawal speak about their area. “He should speak about the restoration of peace. And the power shortage followed by lack of water in the area,” said Zulekha Khatoon, a resident of Cheel Chowk.
She narrated how water is increasingly becoming a problem in their residential area. However, she was asked by other women to speak about PPP chairperson and his impending speech, and to not discuss “other issues at the moment.” Zulekha added then, “whether good or bad we have to live here. But I do want peace in the area and among neighbours.”
Apart from the residents, there was a large group of supporters who had come from other areas of the city and tagged along the caravan to reach Lyari. Nazeeha Bibi was one of them. Originally from Lyari’s Cheel Chowk, she moved to Orangi Town 11-1/2 almost a decade back. Trying to speak above the music and slogans, she said that, “I woke up early today, only to follow the rally, and to reach Lyari in time for Bilawal’s speech. We had stopped expecting that he would ever visit Lyari,” she added. She, like Zulekha, said that the PPP chairman needed to do something about the increasing water problems and power shortage in the surrounding areas of Lyari.
There were similar thoughts among the women and men standing near Bilawal’s bus. Where some of them got emotional saying that Bilawal reminds them of his mother, there were others who spoke about the inconvenience they faced in reaching Lea Market.
Mohammad Amir, a resident of Musharraf Colony, said that he was asked to walk from Memon Masjid in Bolten Market to Lea Market, as most of the routes on the way were blocked as part of security arrangements for the rally. “Thankfully, the police had kept space between the buses which made it easier for pedestrians. But it was difficult for those using public transport or even their own vehicles to reach Lea Market,” he added.
There were similar complaints by other people at the rally, that routes for the main public hospitals, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre and Civil Hospital, were blocked by buses causing stress and inconvenience to people. “Buses blocked the road near Hamdard Dawakhana near Civil Hospital,” said Mohammad Ibrahim Baloch, a resident of Kalri.
In a statement issued later, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah countered the complaints by adding that the route towards both the hospitals was not blocked. He said that the traffic police was present to direct pedestrians and those wishing to access the hospital.
In Lea Market, as Bilawal took over the microphone to make his speech, the entire arena reverberating earlier with songs and slogans, went silent. For Zahida Abdullah, a resident of Cheel Chowk, it meant that “the party is back where it belongs.”
As the PPP chairperson could be heard speaking about “not forgetting the poor”, Zahida said that “it’s a good time in Lyari as those wreaking havoc are finally out. Let’s see what he [Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari] does for the area.”
With the absence of local leadership from the area, many of them are pinning their hopes on the young Bhutto thinking he will “reorganise the party and create employment opportunities for the people.”
Having lost in the by-elections held in Dec 2015, a candidate present at the rally, and on the condition of anonymity, said that people don’t trust those who took oath under the leadership of the proscribed Peoples Aman Committee (PAC) anymore and want change. “After losing out on PS-108 and gaining only two seats from PS-109, we thought the party is finished. PPP can still redeem itself in the area which always gives more than it has while getting nothing in return,” the former candidate added.
Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2016